LONDON: Grouping young tennis players according to their physical maturity
rather than their chronological age could help us develop future tennis
champions, suggests new research.
Boys and girls can vastly vary in their rates of growth and maturity during adolescence.
who mature early are taller, quicker, bigger and stronger, giving them a
significant advantage over their late maturing peers.
is a sport that favours youth who are taller and mature earlier than
their peers. Our data show that this selection bias impacts girls from
the age of 10 and boys from the age of 12,” said Sean Cumming, Senior
Lecturer in Health at University of Bath in England.
inch in height of a player increases the velocity of their serve by
five per cent. At the elite level, it is quite common to find junior
players, especially adolescent boys, who are six foot or greater in
height," Cumming noted.
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This means that later maturing players are often overlooked in the elite tennis selection process.
early maturing boys and girls have initial advantages, the pressure to
win can lead them to play to their physical strengths at the expense of
their technical development,” Cumming said.
talented, yet late maturing players might be excluded or overlooked by
talent spotters on the basis of physical characteristics that are not
fully realised until adulthood," Cumming explained.
team, which includes mathematicians from Bath's Institute for
Mathematical Innovation, is developing new statistical methods to allow
practitioners to better assess and account for individual differences in
biological maturity and help ensure players are evaluated on the basis
of their physical development, and not just their chronological age.
The team published its research in the journal Pediatric Exercise Science.
challenge for those working with young tennis players is to look beyond
differences in maturity, and recognise those players who may have the
greatest potential for success as an adult,” Cumming said.
the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), the governing body for the game of
tennis in Great Britain, is collaborating with scientists at the
University of Bath to use statistics to avoid selection bias towards
early maturing players, a university statement said.
Myburgh, a Strength and Conditioning coach at the LTA also sees
potential benefits in periodically matching players by maturity status,
rather than age, in training and competition.